Speech by US for S on Hong Kong National Security Law at side event webinar at 50th session of UN Human Rights Council (English only) (with photo)

     Following is the speech by the Under Secretary for Security, Mr Sonny Au, on the Hong Kong National Security Law at a side event webinar at the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) today (June 28):
Thank you, Counsellor Mao. Good morning, Ambassador Chen. Ladies and gentlemen, 
     The second anniversary of the Hong Kong National Security Law is only a couple of days away. In the last two years, we have not only plugged the gaping hole in our national security, but have also improved our electoral system.
     At this juncture, allow me to provide the latest account of Hong Kong's rejuvenation with a promising future, thanks to the Central Authorities for making all these happen.
     If we cast our mind back to the time before the havoc that wrecked Hong Kong three years ago, Hong Kong was one of the forerunners in many aspects, just to quote a few examples:
(a) on security - our crime rate was among the lowest in all major metropolises and we were ranked one of the safest cities;
(b) on rule of law - our World Bank index rose dramatically from 68 points in 1997 to 94 in 2015, preceding that of Britain and the United States; we were the world's No. 8 in judicial independence in 2019, as assessed by the World Economic Forum;
(c) on economy - we have been the world's freest economy for 25 consecutive years, and are now No. 1 for economic openness and No. 2 for investment environment;
(d) on transport and infrastructure - we have the best airport for immigration service, and we remain being the world's No. 2 air cargo hub and No. 4 international maritime centre;
(e) on tourism - we topped the world's most visited cities in 2017 and 2018; visitor arrivals to Hong Kong were 65 million, almost 10 times our population.
     With regard to human rights and freedoms, our Basic Law, the constitutional document of Hong Kong, guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms, and by virtue of the Basic Law the provisions of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong remain strong in our jurisprudence.
     We have also put in place a robust framework to promote and safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms: this includes the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, the Ombudsman, and our legal aid services.
     The Government's performance in promoting and safeguarding human rights is open to public examination through regular reports to the United Nations, and is also under the scrutiny of the Legislative Council, the media and various non-governmental human rights organisations.
     Against all these favourable conditions, it is sad to realise that our futile attempt to enact the local national security law in 2003 had been exploited by calculating politicians, some previously seated in the legislature, and the purposeful external forces aiming at China. This exploitation, deepening with time, culminating in the devastation to Hong Kong for almost a year since June 2019. During this extended period, thousands of mobsters repeatedly vandalised shops, set fire to subway stations and public utilities, hurled petrol bombs at police facilities, defaced government premises and stormed the Legislative Council Building. They sieged the airport, paralysed major thoroughfares and viciously wounded law-abiding citizens holding independent political views.
     Local terrorism began to breed, as marked by seizures of a large quantity of improvised explosives, genuine firearms and ammunition never seen before. Illegal acts advocating "Hong Kong independence" were blatant. Interferences from external forces were unscrupulous, with shameless traitors acting as proxies to beg their foreign masters to sanction China and Hong Kong. All these put Hong Kong in a highly volatile position and the implementation of "one country, two systems" under unprecedented challenges.
     After almost a year of chaos, nefariousness and inhumanity, many people in Hong Kong lost faith and saw a very bleak future. It was at this distressed moment that the Central Authorities took resolute action to enact the Hong Kong National Security Law in June 2020, to end this agonising chapter in Hong Kong's otherwise successful story.
     The effect of the National Security Law was immediate. Violence came to a halt; advocacy of "Hong Kong independence" subsided; stability, law and order, and peace of mind were quickly restored.
     The Central Authorities also took decisive measures to improve the electoral system of Hong Kong, putting "one country, two systems" back on track. The improved electoral system ensures full implementation of the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" and eliminating the possibility of foreign forces manipulating our elections and their proxies infiltrating our governing regime. This is important and is conducive to effective governance for the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.
     In the past 10 months, we witnessed that three public elections under the improved electoral system - namely the Election Committee Subsector Ordinary Elections, the Legislative Council General Election and the Chief Executive Election - were all conducted smoothly, in a fair, open and honest manner.
     Hong Kong has transformed from chaos to order, and is now on the path to prosperity. We have regained momentum in economy. Funds raised through initial public offerings have increased by 30 per cent to over US$83 billion, average turnover of the stock market lifted by 60 per cent to over US$19 billion a day, deposit savings in local banks up 11 per cent to US$1.9 trillion, and asset and wealth management business surged 20 per cent to US$4.5 trillion.
     With effective safeguards put in place by the National Security Law and the improved electoral system, Hong Kong enters a new era of opportunities by integrating into national development. On the one hand, we leverage on the motherland's 14th Five-Year Plan to strengthen our four traditional international centres of finance, transportation, trade and legal and dispute resolution, and to establish and develop another four emerging centres of international aviation, innovation and technology (I&T), intellectual property trading and arts and cultural exchange. Just to quote a few examples, our M+ modern arts museum and the Hong Kong Palace Museum have recently opened, with the latter featuring top-notch national treasures, some never on public display before. Arts auctioneering and intellectual property trading are also increasingly boisterous in Hong Kong.
     On the other hand, we are actively collaborating with the other 10 fast-growing cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. This area, with a population of 86 million, about the population size of Germany, attracts talents and investments from all over the world. It is vibrant and houses a majority of China's largest I&T companies. Several top universities of Hong Kong have also established their campuses there to take advantage of the rich I&T ambience.
     In the latest World Competitiveness Yearbook, Hong Kong is rated No. 5 globally, elevated from No. 7 last year. This elevation is a testimony to the effectiveness of the National Security Law and improved electoral system in bringing Hong Kong back on track.
     In a few days, we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of our reunification with the motherland. The exhilarating theme
"A New Era - Stability • Prosperity • Opportunity" does not only capture Hong Kong's impressive achievements over the past two and a half decades, it also underscores our anticipation for and confidence in a brighter future.
     Under "one country, two systems", with the National Security Law and improved electoral system firmly in place, Hong Kong is poised to play a unique role as a gateway to Mainland China, as well as a springboard and an intermediary between the East and West. With unrivalled opportunities for Hong Kong's integration into the motherland and leverage on the fast developing market, Hong Kong will unleash its full potential to capitalise on the many opportunities that a prospering China sets to provide.
     Thank you for your attention.

Ends/Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Issued at HKT 19:08